Stick With It: From Buzzkill to Big Day

Wet and ugly in the parking lot.

Day 11: Jan. 13, 2016

You gotta have faith.

Sometimes it’s hard. Like when you’re expecting a foot of new powder and instead you arrive to heavy rain falling on that foot new.

That’s how it was Wednesday at Crystal. A Pacific storm blew in the previous night and started dumping. I checked telemetry stations before going to bed and everything looked good, with temps in the 20s. “It’s going to be a Pow Day!” the Crystal website promised.

As I pulled into the Crystal lot the next morning, those hopes were crushed. It was pouring and a parade of cars was heading downhill. The bailout had begun. Buzzkill.

It’s raining as SkiZer heads up.

Should I do this? I had to wonder whether spending $72 would be worth it on such a questionable day. At the ticket window, I was told it was snowing at midmountain, so I ponied up and hit the chairlift.

Wet snow started falling about 5,000 feet and the top of the mountain, while not great, was at least below freezing.

The snow was heavy, but if you could find consistent lines, skiable. A little dangerous too — the kind of snow that tears ligaments and breaks bones.

SkiZer takes a header in the heavy snow.

I figured it was a day for Campbell Basin, Crystal’s highest chairlift. I proceeded to put in 10 laps, mostly through the cliffy chutes nearest the chair. The highlight was Rabbit Ears, skier’s left of the chairlift, where I got first tracks.

“Today is a day to hit it and quit it,” said a chairlift partner during one ride. He and lots of other dudes took off early. I hung in, and took a tentative run down Powder Bowl. Horrible visibility, but fun, with uncut lines still available in the white abyss.

“Today is a day to hit it and quit it,” said one chairlift partner

After some coffee and a dry-out period in the Campbell Basin Lodge, I skied off West Face in Green Valley, did two more on Powder Bowl and was about to call it a day when a lifty told me, “Northway just opened.”

Westface Crystal
Preparing to drop into the trees on West Face.

It was 2:15 and I had given up hope that Northway would open at all. I’d been hearing Ski Patrol bombs go off in area all afternoon.

Why not? I figured I’d try one and then head out if it was bad.

It was spectacular. The first run in Paradise Bowl was thrilling and another quick run down Bruce’s Bowl was even better, with uncut lines and only truly dedicated skiers still on the slopes.

Those two runs made the day. As the gates closed on Northway, I skied down to the car with a huge smile on my face.



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